Onion at the Fringe: Sarah Kendall

© Sarah Kendall / Rosalind Furlong

© Sarah Kendall / Rosalind Furlong

The Edinburgh Fringe is fast approaching, and with a host of TVO favourites leading the charge throughout August, we are highlighting the shows you simply have to see.

As well as a smattering of interviews, we’ll be bringing you a range of preview ‘Soapbox’ pieces, in which a member of team TVO takes a moment or two to reflect on the work of a Fringe-going comic talent, and why we feel they’re worthy of your attention.

Up next is the powerhouse storytelling magnificence of Sarah Kendall, whose latest show Shaken follows her Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination last year. Time to take the stand once more…

Sarah Kendall has made three big decisions during her career as a stand-up comedian.

The first was to pack up and move to England just as her stature in the Australian comedy circuit was rising. The second was deciding to pack it all in to have a family ten years down the line. And the third was to switch gears, and return to the live circuit not as a regular stand-up, but as a full blown raconteur.

Each of these decisions turned out pretty damn well for Kendall, which in an industry as notoriously difficult to juggle as comedy, could potentially suggest whatever gods there are look upon her with deserved favour.

In 2004, just a few years after her move to England, she was nominated for Best Show in that year’s Edinburgh (then Perrier) Comedy Awards. Her withdrawal from the limelight has allowed her to cultivate the family lifestyle she craved. And her return in a new format saw her receive a second Edinburgh Comedy Awards nomination last year, eleven years after her last.

It’s not hard to see why. Kendall toured heavily as a stand-up, earning her stripes through numerous award-winning shows. In 2008, she stretched her wings and joined the cast of short-lived E4 sketch show Beehive, beginning a period of collaboration with Alice Lowe that has continued on-and-off since. She’s also become a regular in Radio 4 comedy Clare in the Community alongside Sally Philips, Nina Conti and Liza Tarbuck.

© Sarah Kendall / Rosalind Furlong

© Sarah Kendall / Rosalind Furlong

As a result, she’s fused these experiences and her desire to do something more than simple stand-up into a format she was born to master: the long-form story. The gags are now accompanied by intellectual reasoning, emotional resonance and a startling honesty – even when she’s lying through her teeth to exaggerate the tale she’s telling, there’s a real acknowledgement that’s exactly what she’s doing, and you need to just go along with it.

This latter point might be because Kendall is remarkably free of bullshit. Talking to Sarah is always refreshing because there’s absolutely no PR filter, and virtually no ego whatsoever. She’s the first to admit when things didn’t work, perhaps too quickly in fact, and takes every compliment to heart with a touch of genuine surprise every time. And as we’ve seen, she works her arse off to get the show into a fit state by the time it reaches the Fringe.

With Shaken, Kendall takes us back for one more dalliance around her teenage years, which also provided the tales in her previous shows Touchdown and A Day in October. We refuse to tell you too much about it, but we’ll say that it involves an awkward teenage girl running after the school-bus, and suffering a series of unfortunate events with potentially life-changing significance as a result.

The show is part of a glorious comeback for a quite rightly acclaimed comic mind, and marks a turning point in Kendall’s career. With a BBC Radio series on the way, Shaken offers Sarah and her audience a chance to take stock, and figure out what happens next, whilst looking back at those moments we all regret but which shaped us forever. This is an essential show, and you’d be mad to miss it.

Sarah Kendall: Shaken is at Assembly George Square Studios at 18:45 from August 3rd-28th. Tickets can be shaken out of the Fringe Tree over yonder.

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